October 23, 2017

How I Fund My Crafting Habit for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

By crafting many of the items I include in my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, the cost per box is greatly reduced.  Especially since I have a lot of fabric and yarn that I've inherited.  But I still need to buy trims and thread and other supplies.  And I don't know about you, but I struggle every time I spend money -- Is this really necessary?  Can I get by without it?  Isn't a plain dress without decorations at the hemline just as good?  Most often the answer is I could make do, but it will be so much nicer for the child receiving it if I can go the extra mile.

We live in a small town with very few stores and my health is such that I rarely leave the house.  So shopping great craft deals at stores year round is not an option for me.  So the following is my plan on how to have cash to spend for my shoebox crafting.

One of my favorite blog giveaway wins.

Enter Blog Giveaways -- Goal: to add quality to my boxes.

Any day that I have a few extra minutes I enter some blog giveaways.  I have won gift cards, fabric, toys, shoes, jewelry and other fun items for my shoeboxes.  The time spent and winnings vary greatly.  There are long dry spells of no wins and then wins weekly.  Since I don't spend much time on it now I rarely win, but I hope over the next shoebox packing year to be able to find at least 5 to 10 minutes a day to spend entering.  It is a great way to get high quality items for my shoebox packing.  I have written a post on How to Find and Enter Blog Giveaways if you are interested in learning more.

Enter Crafted Items for Shoeboxes in the County Fair -- Goal:  $10 to $30 a year.

One way I am trying to earn a little extra is thru entering some of the things I have crafted in our local county fair.  There is no entry fee and for sewn items the prizes are First - $6, Second - $5 and Third $4.  This year I only had three things to enter:  a dress, a skirt and a pencil bag (which I knew was most likely not to win since it was so small an item).  I won two first place ribbons and a check for $12.  Elizabeth won third place on a library bag she entered, so she gave me the $4 she won.  We added a total of $16 to our budget.  Three wins on five items isn't too bad.  I think I will look at the different categories available and make things for my shoeboxes accordingly so we can earn more next year.

 My first purchase with money earned thru ways mentioned in this post:  bulk ribbon, originally sold by the yard, from a closed craft store sold thru The Fabric & Yarn Lady on Etsy.

Online Activities

I have decided to spend some specific time each day at sites that "pay" members for doing activities online and use it to pay for my craft supplies.  They all offer points for activities that can be turned in for gift cards.  I use these gift cards for my Operation Christmas Child crafting or sometimes I use them for my family's shopping budget and take the cash to replace them.  This way I can shop anywhere I want to.  I thought some of  you may like to earn a little extra cash so I'll share my daily routine so you can better decide if it is worth a try on your schedule.

My Online Earning Routine

I don't want to spend too much time online doing this, so I have chosen to limit my time and thus limit my earnings.  If I need a little extra cash for a specific crafting item or I'm close to cash out I'll spend a little more time doing other activities at one or two sites.  There are people who spend a lot more time and earn a good bit of money.  If I can accomplish the goals I have set, I think it is a good balance for me.

Note:  All of these sites are free to join.  I have cashed out with no problems at all but have not cashed out at Dailybreak yet.

MyPoints -- Goal:  $5/month

I cash out at MyPoints for $5 CVS gift cards.  At this time that is the best deal and since, as you can see from our other blog Simply CVS, we shop the deals there weekly it is a great fit. They do offer many more options.  To earn this monthly I need to earn around 23 points a day.  Below is how I do that.  We've shared on our other blog How to Earn on MyPoints if you are interested in learning more.

Sarah's haul from CVS 75% off clearance shopping.

  • Time spent: 1 to 5 minutes (usually under 2)
  • Aim for the Daily 5.  If I do five of the daily activities listed on the site I earn an extra 5 points.
  • Check for bonus emails--I've signed up to receive the BonusMail and I usually get one to four a day.
    • Click thru the ones that say "earn 5 points" for visiting at the bottom.  Not all offer this.
    • Tip:  I try to leave the last one or two in my inbox for the days I don't get any.  This helps with the daily 5 bonus.
  • Vote in the Daily Poll
  • Visit the advertiser listed in the Daily 5.
  • Click on the "Discover a Deal" on the Daily 5.
  • Click thru the "print a coupon" on the Daily 5.
    • Sometimes I will print one and at different times of the year they have points for printing -- it varies.
  • If I don't get the Daily 5 that way (because I have no emails) I will click on "Take a Survey."  
    • If there are questions on the right hand side I will work thru until I reach 10 and that will count.  I will earn the 5 for answering and it will count towards the Daily 5.
    • If there are no questions on the right I will try one of the surveys.  I usually get disqualified and that counts, too.
    • If I don't have time that day, I'll just miss filling in my Daily 5.
  • Search.
    • Before I leave the site I will do a couple of web searches.  I usually win points once or twice a week.

Swagbucks  -- Goal:  $20-25/month

We have earned hundreds of dollars over the years at Swagbucks. They offer dozens of ways to earn.  I have weeded out most and limit myself to the quickest and easiest.  Even with limiting my time, I can still earn at least $20 a month and most months $25.  And because they offer dozens of different gift cards as well as Paypal it is perfect.  We have shared several posts at our other blog in the How to Earn at Swagbucks Series if you would like to learn more.

  • Time spent: 5 to 10 minutes [spread throughout the day]
  • Take one question daily poll.
  • Click on deal of the day.
  • Do two to three searches.
  • Check Swagbucks Inbox for quick click deals.
  • Do Swagbucks mobile videos.
    • I have an old mobile phone no one is using that I downloaded their six video apps on.  I keep this running all day long switching between the apps as I reach the limit for the day.  I have unlimited home Wi-Fi so I don't have a data charge.  This really helps the points add up.  I have read of many people who buy cheap disposable phones just to earn thru Swagbucks Mobile Watch.
  • Enter Swag Codes announced on Facebook -- usually once daily if I catch it before it expires.
    • Monthly they have a mega-swag code day where I earn up to 40 points.
  • Join Team Challenges [available each month] to earn bonus when cashing out.
  • Participate in Swago Boards [available each month].
  • Earn daily bonuses for meeting goals set by Swagbucks -- only some days do I do this, but it helps a lot.
  • Referrals -- I also earn a little from a couple of friends who have signed up under me.  I earn 10% of what they earn on many activities.  If you would like to try earning free gift cards from Swagbucks and sign up under Sarah's referral link you can click thru here to Join Swagbucks Today.  She will earn as you earn.

Microsoft Rewards (formerly Bing) -- Goal:  $5/month

Most points earned at Microsoft Rewards are from searching thru Bing.  I cash out for Amazon gift codes but they offer several others.

  • Time spent: 1 to 2 minutes [not including regular searches]
  • Earn by searching the web. [150 points daily]
    • I use Bing as default search engine.  This way I earn while I search naturally thru out the day.
  • Take daily quizzes when available.
  • Click on the 10 point searches when available.

Dailybreak -- Goal:  $10/year

This is the least income, but at this point I am at least hanging in there until I earn my first $10.  I really don't like spending much time so I am not sure it will be worth continuing--I may do better doing a little more at Swagbucks.  This site puts up a limited number of rewards the first of each month and when they are gone they are gone.  I plan to get an Amazon gift card with my 10,000 points.

  • Time spent: under 2 minutes
  • Click on four to six articles and scroll down to earn points (you can click on 10 per day).
  • Do the spins.
  • They offer bonuses for repeat visits and other activities.  These help the points add up.

I still try to find good deals on the supplies I buy to make the money go further--like I've shared in this post about The Fabric & Yarn Lady's Bulk Craft Supplies on Etsy.  But by working to earn money specifically for my shoebox and crafting passions I don't have to wrestle quite so much when I spend it.

I hope this income will also cover the full cost of filling and shipping my dozen or so 2 to 4 year old girl Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes I plan to pack this year.  Our family divides the ages of boxes between members and I am in charge of the 2 to 4 year old girl shoeboxes.  The reason I chose this category can be explained in this post:  Packing OCC Shoeboxes for Boys vs. Girls and Why I Sew Dozens of Dresses.

How do you support your crafting and Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing habit?  Do you use any online earning sites?  Which are your favorites?

Click the banner below to see ways we save on our household budget to have more to spend on shoebox packing.

Links in this post may be referral or affiliate links.

October 21, 2017

OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 10/21/2017

Managed to hit some of the Dollar General 90% off deals!

I got some stuffed animals for 60 cents at Bargain Hunt.

Some more stuffed animals, plus a stuffed animal pencil case.

I picked up  couple last minute things I needed-really excited about the Engineer Train Cap as I have a train themed box packed, now I can tuck it in!  And the little wooden "doll house" has a handle...hoping in the next year to find dolls to fit in it.

My dad took me to run out for a few last minute things I needed for the church kid's packing party and found a couple other fun things!

heard that my great aunt was in charge of getting school supplies for the shoebox being packed by her table at Bible Study, so I sewed up a quick reversible pencil cases her to include, and mailed it off.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $42.22

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

October 18, 2017

Territory and State Themed Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

There was a challenge on Shoebox Shoppers page on Facebook to pack "10 for Texas" Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.  In addition to donating to relief organizations, it gave us something personal to do to help those packers affected Hurricane Harvey-some had their boxes or packing supplies destroyed-to pack boxes in their place (they won't get these boxes, Samaritan's Purse is helping there in other ways).  Then came Irma, and packers in Florida were affected, and while I haven't heard first hand, I'm sure Puerto Rico won't be able to pack many, if any, boxes this year.  So, I decided it would make it a more personal way of supporting those in those states and territory if I packed one box themed around that location.  I posted on my Simply Shoeboxes Facebook page for ideas.  I was able to find almost enough in our stash to pack the themes, my mom and sister sewed a couple things and I bought one or two things, but on the whole, it was just carefully selecting from the supplies we had on hand.  Then came the California wildfires and accounts of packers forced from their homes and churches with shoeboxes in them threatened with flames...so I packed one for them, too!  Unfortunately, we'd already packed a lot of our boxes by then, so had less to pick from, but I think it turned out good, too!

When I do a theme box, what that means, while I stick to my normal list of things to include, I try to find versions of those items that fit the theme.  I may add an extra unique item or two, but on the whole it's the same list, just different types.  My basic list for those interested is:
  • Hygiene supplies (soap & case; toothbrush & case; washcloth; comb)
  • School supplies (lined paper, pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser, ruler, etc.)
  • Art supplies (crayons, watercolors, and/or colored pencils; plain paper and/or coloring book; stickers, etc.)
  • Ball
  • Stuffed Animal
  • Toy
  • Game
  • Something to wear
  • Whistle
  • Some sort of container (maybe a bag or tin)
  • And a family photo (not pictured below)
 And here's how the boxes turned out:

This was the one for Texas, probably my favorite how it worked out!   I tried to go with red and blue from the flag.  The Texas teddy bear is actually what gave me the idea!  I found we had a Lincoln Logs type kit left from last year (it was a 3 pack, we split it up into 3), and we had the horse, I found the cowboy to go with it.  Found pickup trucks in our Hotwheels stash, color your horse, farm and milk coloring books.  The orange hat reminded me of hunters.  The woven cloth with the soap looked western to me.  And the 3-step Bandanna Drawstring Bag my mom made was just perfect!   Here's how it was packed into the box:

It was a bit of a challenge with the big "log cabin", but it ended up working out okay! I used the trick of standing up the notebook and coloring books in the back to make them fit.  As you can see the lid closes...just needs a label and rubberband added!

I went with a lamb for Puerto Rico's stuffed animal as it was in their coat of arms.  I went with baseball for the ball and pencil sharpener as a couple players on our Indian's team are from Puerto Rico. For a lot of the rest of the items I relied on ideas from my readers.  One thing a lot of people said was colorful.  So, I went with crayons AND watercolors (since watercolors seems "islandy" to me-haha!), a construction paper pad, colorful covers on notebooks (lined and unlined), and colorful headbands.  My mom made me a Simple Lined Drawstring Bag from fabric with colorful sailboats.  Some people mentioned their frog, so I put one of my Hopping Frog Games in and a little frog figurine.  Another mentioned lizards, and I had a figurine of a lizard.  Tropical birds were mentioned, so I sent one of the mazes we had with one on.  At least one person mentioned roosters, and the one threading kit we had left was a rooster!  How it went in:

I was able to fit the crayons, whistle, and one or two other little things in with the dominoes which I wanted to send as I understand it's popular in the Caribbean.

I went "beach" for Florida.  Flipflops, boat, "beach ball", fish, fish shaped "magic" towel, fish button on the crocheted bracelet, sea shell necklace, and fish Spirograph type toy.  Someone mentioned Finding Dory items, and we had these cute lenticular Valentines-perfect!  My mom sewed a Fat Quarter Library Bag from some adorable fish and star fish fabric, it also reflected what ended up being a pink, purple, and yellow themed box.  For the stuffed animals, I went with a flamingo, but it was little, so it got a "seahorse" for a friend.  The cat figurine is because it reminded me of a young Florida panther.

I find flip flops fit in best if I lay them separately, with the flat bottoms against the flat sides of the box.

To kick it off, you may not be able to see it well, but in the back right is a Lakers themed notepad and pen, and I found a Lakers Basketball card and basketball pencil sharpener to go with it.  To go with CA, I put in a Monsters, Inc and Avengers pencils in there, too!  I was excited to find this Drawstring Pencil Bag we already had sewn with beach and boom boxes...seemed appropriate!  The Hotwheels were fancy sports cars.  Since there is a bear on the state flag, I chose one as the stuffed animal and on the notebook.  Since there's a dairy industry I send a dairy key-chain and coloring book.   I included a gold medal as a tribute to the LA Olympics and a gold pen as a reminder of the gold rush.

I was able to fit the water bottle in by filling it with the washcloth, cars, mini robot, and gold medal. 

Ended up being fun and turning out well I think...I think I'll have to do more states going forward!

October 17, 2017

October Item of the Month for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes ~ Personal communication

Samaritan's Purse has suggested items of the month for packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, and for October that is personal communication.  This can be various things, a long handwritten letter, a signed Christmas card, a printed letter, a photo, etc.  Or some combination of those things.  Personally this year I think I'm going to include a typed letter and photo, and sign a card, maybe with a short note related to what is in that specific box.  Like "I hope you like butterflies, I packed this box with lots because my Aunt C likes them", etc.

I've heard that often one of the first thing a child looks for is to see who the box is from.  Some of these children may live in orphanages, and while some orphanages are great, not all are, or there may just be too many kids!  You may be the only person who has done something personal to make that child feel special!  I want them to have a face and a name to feel loved!

A simple start would be to just include the photo Christmas Card you're sending to friends & family, but a letter is great, too!  If you'd like some ideas of how to get started/what to write, check out my post: Tips on Writing a Letter to Include in Your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.  If you're packing with your kids, Samaritan's Purse, offers this Coloring Page/Letter combo that they might enjoy doing!  There is also a chance you may hear back if you include your contact info, I've heard back via post and email, others have been contacted via Facebook.  Sometimes they know someone through school, church, or their parents work with internet access and can contact you, which is cheaper for them then international mail.  My understanding is some sending countries discourage sending postal addresses for security reasons, but here in the USA we can do so.  Now for some inspiration to get working on those notes!

Photos Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse.

October 16, 2017

Discounted Craft Supplies from The Fabric & Yarn Lady ~ Great Source for Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Crafting

Chelle, from Chelle's Caybees, donates hundreds of crocheted items each year to our Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing stockpile.  She is currently helping her friend sell off the stock from her closed discount craft store.  They are listing it on Etsy at The Fabric & Yarn Lady.

Bulk ribbon I purchased from The Fabric & Yarn Lady.  
This is grosgrain ribbon she sold by the yard in the store.  I use it on my dresses and skirts mostly.  I'll never find this price again so I've stocked up for the next few years.

They offer mostly bulk lots of discounted crafting supplies.  New listings are added almost daily and will continue for the next couple of months.  If you love to craft for your OCC shoeboxes as much as I do you may find some deals on craft supplies

October 14, 2017

Packing Weeks OCC Shoebox Stockpile Saturdays ~ 10/14/2017

This will actually be two week's worth of stockpiling, I was too busy packing to post-yay for packing shoeboxes!! 😊

First we stopped by a thrift store, and found a lot of stuffed animals, many new with tags, the rest like-new! 

These look like they will work for the kid's packing party!

These may be a bit big for the kids packing party, have to test them in our test/sample boxes...but they'll be used somehow.

These are some that might be too big for the kid's packing party, and a lot are Pooh themed which my Mom likes to do for her boxes!

These are some we needed for themes, (plus the black lamb was just TOO cute!).  I had a panda box half made, and no stuffed animal...then I found this one!

I forgot I'd requested this free sample, it came just in time for packing day and I was doing a butterfly themed 10-14 girl box!

Got some school supplies at CVS clearance, some 75% off, some 90% off, plus nail clippers free after a coupon.  I like getting "fancy" notebooks for my boxes...almost like a "wow" item in itself. 

I also ran by Dollar Tree to some lead for the mechanical pencils...hard to find 0.7 lead.

Stopped by  Dollar Generals for summer clearance.

Picked up some stickers for my dinosaur  themed box, some more leads, and a couple puzzles for 2-4 boxes.

Some more random fun stuff plus theme.

Some donated lace-for adding to sewing kits and my sister likes to put it in boxes because she's read a lot about hair styles in different cultures and she says a lot use things like that to braid in or tie up.

While some of us packed, others of us sewed tote bags and pencil cases...don't have photos of all of them here, some were packed as soon as sewn!

We also got our order of combs from MD Supplies and Services.   So that'll help us finish up the boxes!

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $106.21

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0 

Disclosure: Links on Simply Shoeboxes may be affiliate partners or referrals.